Who will bridge the gap to Mo?

No Soriano, Joba means bullpen help a must for Yanks


Now without both Joe Girardi’s designated seventh- and eighth-inning guys, the Yankees are going to be scrambling for setup help over the next two months.

The news today that Joba Chamberlain would likely need Tommy John surgery, coming on the heels of Rafael Soriano getting shut down for at least a month, leaves the Yankees without much of a bridge to Mariano Rivera the moment.

They can take heart that David Robertson has stepped up in a big way so far.  After showing plenty of potential in fanning 63 batters in just 43 2/3 innings in 2009, Robertson took a step backwards last year.  His ERA was an adequate 3.82, but he walked more than a batter every other inning and finished with a 1.50 WHIP.

This year, the walks have been even more abundant, with 18 in 23 1/3 innings.  However, he’s also fanned 38, posted a 1.16 ERA and stranded 19 of 25 inherited runners.

Unfortunately, Robertson is the only setup-type reliever the Yankees have left.  Boone Logan has decent numbers, but he’s failing as a lefty specialist (left-handers are hitting .316 off him).  Journeyman Luis Ayala has also been solid, but there’s no telling how long that it will last and he’s usually been quite vulnerable to left-handed hitters.

Help from the minors is a possibility.  Kevin Whelan has always had talent, and it looks like his control might finally be decent enough to allow him to help.  He has a 30/6 K/BB ratio and a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer this season.

There’s one route the Bombers don’t want to go, but it may be worth a try anyway: top prospect Manny Banuelos showed potentially dominant stuff in one- and two-inning appearances this spring.  The 20-year-old lefty currently has a 2.84 ERA in 11 starts for Double-A Trenton. Right-hander Dellin Betances would be another intriguing candidate to make a switch.  He has a 1.99 ERA in nine starts for Trenton.

The Yankees, though, aren’t going to turn to either now and might still not want to even when August rolls around.  Expect them to start going shopping at some point. Heath Bell would be very costly — the Padres would likely ask for either Banuelos or Betances in a deal — but the Yankees will inquire about both him and Mike Adams.  The A’s will have Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes and Michael Wuertz to deal if they fall completely out of the AL West race, and the Twins will likely listen on Mike Capps, though he’s not an ideal fit in Yankee Stadium.

Who knows? Maybe they could even bring in Kerry Wood for the second year in a row.  If Wood would waive his no-trade clause to play anywhere other than Chicago, a return to New York would make sense.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.